Publications by authors named "Massimo Di Nicola"

86 Publications

The Pan-Immune-Inflammation Value in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Receiving First-Line Therapy.

Target Oncol 2021 Jun 2. Epub 2021 Jun 2.

Medical Oncology Department, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

Background: Since a non-negligible fraction of patients with metastatic melanoma does not experience long-term disease control, even with immunotherapy and targeted therapy, new biomarkers for patient stratification and treatment tailoring are needed in this setting.

Objective: We investigated the association of a novel immune-inflammatory blood-based biomarker, the Pan-Immune-Inflammation Value (PIV), with clinical outcomes of patients with metastatic melanoma receiving first-line therapy.

Patients And Methods: We retrospectively included patients treated at the Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori of Milan and having an available baseline complete blood cell count (CBC). PIV was calculated as: [neutrophil count (10/mm) × platelet count (10/mm) × monocyte count (10/mm)]/lymphocyte count (10/mm).

Results: A total of 228 patients were included: 119 (52%) had been treated with immunotherapy and 109 (48%) with targeted therapy. PIV was significantly higher in patients with ECOG PS ≥ 1, high disease burden, synchronous metastases, and elevated baseline LDH level. High baseline PIV was independently associated with poor overall survival (adjusted hazard ratio [HR]: 2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.30-3.29; adjusted P = 0.002) and progression-free survival (adjusted HR 1.56; 95% CI 1.01-2.41; adjusted P = 0.044). High PIV was also associated with primary resistance to both immunotherapy (odds ratio [OR]: 3.98; 95% CI 1.45-12.32; P = 0.005) and targeted therapy (OR: 8.42; 95% CI 2.50-34.5; P < 0.001). PIV showed a promising discrimination ability in terms of AIC and c-index when compared with other CBC-based biomarkers.

Conclusions: PIV may guide the treatment decision process and the development of novel first-line treatment strategies in melanoma, but warrants further study and validation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11523-021-00819-0DOI Listing
June 2021

Anticancer innovative therapy congress: Highlights from the 10th anniversary edition.

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev 2021 Jun 14;59:1-8. Epub 2021 Feb 14.

Immunotherapy and Innovative Therapeutics Unit, Department of Medical Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

During the Tenth Edition of the Annual Congress on "Anticancer Innovative Therapy" [Milan, 23/24 January 2020], experts in the fields of immuno-oncology, epigenetics, tumor cell signaling, and cancer metabolism shared their latest knowledge on the roles of i] epigenetics, and in particular, chromatin modifiers, ii] cancer metabolism, iii] cancer stem cells [CSCs], iv] tumor cell signaling, and iv] the immune system. The novel therapeutic approaches presented included epigenetic drugs, cell cycle inhibitors combined with ICB, antibiotics and other off-label drugs, small-molecules active against CSCs, liposome-delivered miRNAs, tumor-specific CAR-T cells, and T-cell-based immunotherapy. Moreover, important evidence on possible mechanisms of resistance to these innovative therapies were also discussed, in particular with respect to resistance to ICB. Overall, this conference provided scientists and clinicians with a broad overview of future challenges and hopes to improve cancer treatment reasonably in the medium-short term.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2021.02.001DOI Listing
June 2021

Back to simplicity: a four-marker blood cell score to quantify prognostically relevant myeloid cells in melanoma patients.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 Feb;9(2)

Unit of Immunotherapy of Human Tumors, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

Background: Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), a cornerstone of cancer-related immunosuppression, influence response to therapy and disease outcomes in melanoma patients. Nevertheless, their quantification is far from being integrated into routine clinical practice mostly because of the complex and still evolving phenotypic signatures applied to define the cell subsets. Here, we used a multistep downsizing process to verify whether a core of few markers could be sufficient to capture the prognostic potential of myeloid cells in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of metastatic melanoma patients.

Methods: In baseline frozen PBMC from a total of 143 stage IIIc to IV melanoma patients, we first assessed the relevant or redundant expression of myeloid and MDSC-related markers by flow cytometry (screening set, n=23 patients). Subsequently, we applied the identified panel to the development set samples (n=59 patients undergoing first/second-line therapy) to obtain prognostic variables associated with overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) by machine learning adaptive index modeling. Finally, the identified score was confirmed in a validation set (n=61) and compared with standard clinical prognostic factors to assess its additive value in patient prognostication.

Results: This selection process led to the identification of what we defined myeloid index score (MIS), which is composed by four cell subsets (CD14, CD14HLA-DR, CD14PD-L1 and CD15 cells), whose frequencies above cut-offs stratified melanoma patients according to progressively worse prognosis. Patients with a MIS=0, showing no over-threshold value of MIS subsets, had the best clinical outcome, with a median survival of >33.6 months, while in patients with MIS 1→3, OS deteriorated from 10.9 to 6.8 and 6.0 months as the MIS increased (p<0.0001, c-index=0.745). MIS clustered patients into risk groups also according to PFS (p<0.0001). The inverse correlation between MIS and survival was confirmed in the validation set, was independent of the type of therapy and was not interfered by clinical prognostic factors. MIS HR was remarkably superior to that of lactate dehydrogenase, tumor burden and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio.

Conclusion: The MIS >0 identifies melanoma patients with a more aggressive disease, thus acting as a simple blood biomarker that can help tailoring therapeutic choices in real-life oncology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001167DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7887358PMC
February 2021

A combination of extracellular matrix- and interferon-associated signatures identifies high-grade breast cancers with poor prognosis.

Mol Oncol 2021 May 19;15(5):1345-1357. Epub 2021 Feb 19.

Unit of Immunotherapy and Anticancer Innovative Therapeutics, Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

Breast cancer (BC) is a heterogeneous disease in which the tumor microenvironment (TME) seems to impact the clinical outcome. Here, we investigated whether a combination of gene expression signatures relating to both the structural and immune TME aspects can help predict prognosis in women with high-grade BC (HGBC). Thus, we focused on a combined molecular biomarker variable that involved extracellular matrix (ECM)-associated gene expression (ECM3 signature) and interferon (IFN)-associated metagene (IFN metagene) expression. In 97 chemo-naive HGBCs from the METABRIC dataset, the dichotomous ECM3/IFN (dECIF) variable identified a group of high-risk patients (ECM3 /IFN vs other; hazard ratio = 3.2, 95% confidence interval: 1.5-6.7). Notably, ECM3 /IFN tumors showed low tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, high levels of CD33-positive cells, absence of PD-1 expression, or low expression of PD-L1, as suggested by immune profiles and immune-histochemical analysis on an independent cohort of 131 HGBCs. To make our results transferable to clinical use, we refined the dECIF biomarker using reduced ECM3 and IFN signatures; notably, the prognostic value of this reduced dECIF was comparable to that of the original dECIF. After validation in a new BC cohort, reduced dECIF was translated into a robust qPCR classifier for real-world clinical use.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12912DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096783PMC
May 2021

Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in adult soft-tissue sarcoma: an analysis from the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

ESMO Open 2020 10;5(5):e000860

Internal Medicine and Medical Therapy, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia, Lombardia, Italy.

Background: The role of high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) in the treatment of soft-tissue sarcoma (STS) remains an unsettled issue. Prospective clinical trials failed to prove a benefit of the procedure but were limited by small and heterogeneous patient cohorts. Thus, it is unknown if ASCT may be a valuable treatment option in specific patient subgroups.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to investigate the value of ASCT according to histological subtype in STS patients who were registered in the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation database between 1996 and 2016.

Results: Median progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in the entire cohort of 338 patients were 8.3 and 19.8 months, respectively, and PFS and OS at 5 years were 13% and 25%, respectively. Analysis of outcomes in different subgroups showed that younger age, better remission status before transplantation and melphalan-based preparative regimen were predictive of benefit from ASCT, whereas histology and grading had no statistically significant impact.

Conclusions: Outcomes after ASCT compared favorably to those of recent trials on conventional chemotherapies and targeted therapies in STS, including histology-tailored approaches. ASCT, thus, should be reinvestigated in clinical trials focusing on defined patient subgroups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/esmoopen-2020-000860DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7590345PMC
October 2020

ESMO Clinical Research Observatory (ECRO): improving the efficiency of clinical research through rationalisation of bureaucracy.

ESMO Open 2020 05;5(3):e000662

Scientific and Medical Division, European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), Lugano, Switzerland.

During the last years, there has been a dramatic increase in the administrative and bureaucratic burden associated with clinical research, which has clearly had an impact on its overall efficiency and on the activity of clinical investigators and research teams. Indeed, the supervision of the adherence of clinical research to Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines and legal regulations is of the utmost importance. Yet, while such regulations have remained largely unchanged during recent years, the number of administrative tasks and their complexity have grown markedly, as supported by the results of a survey performed among 940 clinical investigators that we report in this manuscript. Therefore, many investigators believe that it has become necessary to undertake a rigorous analysis of the causes and consequences of this issue, and to create a conduit to channel the advice from experienced investigators regarding clinical research procedures, in order to improve them. Based on these premises, ESMO has launched the ESMO Clinical Research Observatory (ECRO), a task force that will analyse different aspects of clinical research. ECRO will aim to provide the views of ESMO on clinical research procedures based on the feedback from clinical investigators, under complete adherence to the Declaration of Helsinki, the GCP guidelines and any other applicable legal regulations, while at the same time showing profound respect for all the stakeholders involved in clinical research. This manuscript provides the background and rationale for the creation of ECRO, its planned activity and an analysis of the current administrative burden in clinical research with recommendations to rationalise it. Indeed, we expect that this effort shall lead to a relevant improvement in the care of patients and in the development of clinical research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/esmoopen-2019-000662DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7223268PMC
May 2020

Author Correction: The landscape of d16HER2 splice variant expression across HER2-positive cancers.

Sci Rep 2020 Apr 24;10(1):7210. Epub 2020 Apr 24.

Molecular Targeting Unit, Department of Research, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-63942-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7181868PMC
April 2020

Bintrafusp Alfa, a Bifunctional Fusion Protein Targeting TGF-β and PD-L1, in Second-Line Treatment of Patients With NSCLC: Results From an Expansion Cohort of a Phase 1 Trial.

J Thorac Oncol 2020 07 13;15(7):1210-1222. Epub 2020 Mar 13.

Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, Yonsei Cancer Center, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Introduction: The safety and efficacy of bintrafusp alfa, a first-in-class bifunctional fusion protein composed of the extracellular domain of the transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) receptor II (a TGF-β "trap") fused to a human immunoglobulin G1 antibody blocking programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), was evaluated in patients with advanced NSCLC.

Methods: This expansion cohort of NCT02517398, an ongoing, phase 1, open-label trial, includes 80 patients with advanced NSCLC that progressed after platinum doublet therapy or after platinum-based adjuvant or neoadjuvant treatment and those who also have not received previous immunotherapy. Patients were randomized at a one-to-one ratio to receive either bintrafusp alfa 500 mg or the recommended phase 2 dosage of 1200 mg every 2 weeks. The primary end point was the best overall response (by Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors 1.1 as adjudicated by independent review committee) and was assessed by the objective response rate (ORR).

Results: A total of 80 patients were randomized to receive bintrafusp alfa 500 or 1200 mg (n = 40 each). Median follow-up was 51.9 weeks (IQR, 19.6-74.0). The ORR in all patients was 21.3% (17 of 80). The ORR was 17.5% (seven of 40) and 25.0% (10 of 40) for the 500 mg dose and the 1200 mg dose (recommended phase 2 dose), respectively. At the 1200 mg dose, patients with PD-L1-positive and PD-L1-high (≥80% expression on tumor cells) had ORRs of 36.0% (10 of 27) and 85.7% (six of seven), respectively. Treatment-related adverse events occurred in 55 of the 80 patients (69%) and were graded as greater than or equal to 3 in 23 of the 80 patients (29%). Of the 80 patients, eight (10%) had a treatment-related adverse event that led to treatment discontinuation; no treatment-related deaths occurred.

Conclusions: Bintrafusp alfa had encouraging efficacy and manageable tolerability in patients with NSCLC previously treated with platinum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtho.2020.03.003DOI Listing
July 2020

Cancer Stem Cells: Devil or Savior-Looking behind the Scenes of Immunotherapy Failure.

Cells 2020 02 27;9(3). Epub 2020 Feb 27.

Molecular Targeting Unit, Department of Research, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano, Via Amadeo 42, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Although the introduction of immunotherapy has tremendously improved the prognosis of patients with metastatic cancers of different histological origins, some tumors fail to respond or develop resistance. Broadening the clinical efficacy of currently available immunotherapy strategies requires an improved understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying cancer immune escape. Globally, tumor cells evade immune attack using two main strategies: avoiding recognition by immune cells and instigating an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Emerging data suggest that the clinical efficacy of chemotherapy or molecularly targeted therapy is related to the ability of these therapies to target cancer stem cells (CSCs). However, little is known about the role of CSCs in mediating tumor resistance to immunotherapy. Due to their immunomodulating features and plasticity, CSCs can be especially proficient at evading immune surveillance, thus potentially representing the most prominent malignant cell component implicated in primary or acquired resistance to immunotherapy. The identification of immunomodulatory properties of CSCs that include mechanisms that regulate their interactions with immune cells, such as bidirectional release of particular cytokines/chemokines, fusion of CSCs with fusogenic stromal cells, and cell-to-cell communication exerted by extracellular vesicles, may significantly improve the efficacy of current immunotherapy strategies. The purpose of this review is to discuss the current scientific evidence linking CSC biological, immunological, and epigenetic features to tumor resistance to immunotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9030555DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7140486PMC
February 2020

A Bispecific Antibody to Link a TRAIL-Based Antitumor Approach to Immunotherapy.

Front Immunol 2019 25;10:2514. Epub 2019 Oct 25.

Biomarkers Unit, Department of Applied Research and Technical Development, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

T-cell-based immunotherapy strategies have profoundly improved the clinical management of several solid tumors and hematological malignancies. A recently developed and promising immunotherapy approach is to redirect polyclonal MHC-unrestricted T lymphocytes toward cancer cells by bispecific antibodies (bsAbs) that engage the CD3 complex and a tumor-associated antigen (TAA). The TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor 2 (TRAIL-R2) is an attractive immunotherapy target, frequently expressed by neoplastic cells, that we decided to exploit as a TAA. We found that a TRAIL-R2xCD3 bsAb efficiently activates T cells and specifically redirect their cytotoxicity against cancer cells of different origins , thereby demonstrating its potential as a pan-carcinoma reagent. Moreover, to mimic conditions, we assessed its ability to retarget T-cell activity in an model of ovarian cancer patients' ascitic fluids containing both effector and target cells-albeit with a suboptimal effector-to-target ratio-with remarkable results.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.02514DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6823250PMC
November 2020

Safety, Tolerability, and Potential Clinical Activity of a Glucocorticoid-Induced TNF Receptor-Related Protein Agonist Alone or in Combination With Nivolumab for Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors: A Phase 1/2a Dose-Escalation and Cohort-Expansion Clinical Trial.

JAMA Oncol 2020 Jan;6(1):100-107

Bras and Family Drug Development Program, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Importance: Multiple immunostimulatory agonist antibodies have been clinically tested in solid tumors to evaluate the role of targeting glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor-related protein in anticancer treatments.

Objective: To evaluate the safety and activity of the fully human glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor-related protein agonist IgG1 monoclonal antibody BMS-986156 with or without nivolumab in patients with advanced solid tumors.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This global, open-label, phase 1/2a study of BMS-986156 with or without nivolumab enrolled 292 patients 18 years or older with advanced solid tumors and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 1 or less. Prior checkpoint inhibitor therapy was allowed. Monotherapy and combination dose-escalation cohorts ran concurrently to guide expansion doses beginning October 16, 2015; the study is ongoing.

Interventions: The protein agonist BMS-986156 was administered intravenously at a dose of 10, 30, 100, 240, or 800 mg every 2 weeks as monotherapy, and in the combination group 30, 100, 240, or 800 mg plus 240 mg of nivolumab every 2 weeks; same-dose cohorts were pooled for analysis. One cohort also received 480 mg of BMS-986156 plus 480 mg of nivolumab every 4 weeks.

Main Outcomes And Measures: The primary end points were safety, tolerability, and dose-limiting toxic effects. Additional end points included antitumor activity per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors, version 1.1, and exploratory biomarker analyses.

Results: With a follow-up range of 1.4 to 101.7 weeks (follow-up ongoing), 34 patients (16 women and 18 men; median age, 56.6 years [range, 28-75 years]) received monotherapy (4 patients completed initial treatment), and 258 patients (140 women and 118 men; median age, 60 years [range, 21-87 years]) received combination therapy (65 patients completed initial treatment). No grade 3 to 5 treatment-related adverse events occurred with BMS-986156 monotherapy; grade 3 to 4 treatment-related adverse events occurred in 24 patients (9.3%) receiving BMS-986156 plus nivolumab, with no grade 5 treatment-related adverse events. One dose-limiting toxic effect (grade 4 elevated creatine phosphokinase levels) occurred in a patient receiving 800 mg of BMS-986156 plus 240 mg of nivolumab every 2 weeks; BMS-986156 with or without nivolumab exhibited linear pharmacokinetics with dose-related increase after a single dose. Peripheral T-cell and natural killer-cell proliferation increased after administration of BMS-986156 with or without nivolumab. No consistent and significant modulation of intratumoral CD8+ T cells and FoxP3+ regulatory T cells was observed. No responses were seen with BMS-986156 alone; objective response rates ranged from 0% to 11.1% (1 of 9) across combination therapy cohorts, with a few responses observed in patients previously treated with anti-programmed death receptor (ligand) 1 therapy.

Conclusions And Relevance: Based on this cohort, BMS-986156 appears to have had a manageable safety profile, and BMS-986156 plus nivolumab demonstrated safety and efficacy comparable to historical data reported for nivolumab monotherapy.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02598960.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.3848DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6865300PMC
January 2020

Stabilization of c-KIT G-Quadruplex DNA Structures by the RNA Polymerase I Inhibitors BMH-21 and BA-41.

Int J Mol Sci 2019 Oct 4;20(19). Epub 2019 Oct 4.

Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences (DEFENS), Division of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Milan, via Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy.

The stabilization of G-quadruplex DNA structures by small molecules with affinity to oncogene promoters has emerged as a promising anticancer strategy, due to a potential role in gene expression regulation. We explored the ability of BMH-21 () and its analogue BA-41 () to bind the G-quadruplex structure present in the c-KIT promoter by biophysical methods and molecular modeling. We provide evidence that both compounds interact with the c-KIT 21-mer sequence. The stable monomeric intramolecular parallel G-quadruplex obtained by the mutation of positions 12 and 21 allowed the precise determination of the binding mode by NMR and molecular dynamics studies. Both compounds form a complex characterized by one ligand molecule positioned over the tetrad at the 3'-end, stabilized by an extensive network of π-π interactions. The binding constants (Kb) obtained with fluorescence are similar for both complexes (around 10 M). Compound BA-41 () showed significant antiproliferative activity against a human lymphoma cell line, SU-DHL4, known to express substantial levels of c-KIT. However, the partial inhibition of c-KIT expression by Western blot analysis suggested that the interaction of compound with the c-KIT promoter is not the primary event and that multiple effects provide a contribution as determinants of biological activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms20194927DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6801708PMC
October 2019

Weighing the prognostic role of hyponatremia in hospitalized patients with metastatic solid tumors: the HYPNOSIS study.

Sci Rep 2019 09 10;9(1):12993. Epub 2019 Sep 10.

Medical Oncology Department, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Previous works linked low sodium concentration with mortality risk in cancer. We aimed at weighing the prognostic impact of hyponatremia in all consecutive patients with metastatic solid tumors admitted in a two-years period at our medical oncology department. Patients were included in two cohorts based on serum sodium concentration on admission. A total of 1025 patients were included, of whom 279 (27.2%) were found to be hyponatremic. The highest prevalence of hyponatremia was observed in biliary tract (51%), prostate (45%) and small-cell lung cancer (38.9%). With a median follow-up of 26.9 months, median OS was 2 months and 13.2 months for the hyponatremia versus control cohort, respectively (HR, 2.65; P < 0.001). In the multivariable model, hyponatremia was independently associated with poorer OS (HR, 1.66; P < 0.001). According to the multivariable model, a nomogram system was developed and validated in an external set of patients. We weighed over time the influence of hyponatremia on survival of patients with metastatic solid tumors and pointed out the possibility to exploit serum sodium assessment to design integrated prognostic tools. Our study also highlights the need for a deeper characterization of the biological role of extracellular sodium levels in tumor development and progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49601-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6736887PMC
September 2019

Neoadjuvant eribulin mesylate following anthracycline and taxane in triple negative breast cancer: Results from the HOPE study.

PLoS One 2019 7;14(8):e0220644. Epub 2019 Aug 7.

Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori-Milano, Italy.

Background: Eribulin mesylate (E) is indicated for metastatic breast cancer patients previously treated with anthracycline and taxane. We argued that E could also benefit patients eligible for neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Methods: Patients with primary triple negative breast cancer ≥2 cm received doxorubicin 60 mg/m2 and paclitaxel 200 mg/m2 x 4 cycles (AT) followed by E 1.4 mg/m2 x 4 cycles. Primary endpoint was pathological complete response (pCR) rate; secondary and explorative endpoints included clinical/metabolic response rates and safety, and biomarker analysis, respectively. Using a two-stage Simon design, 43 patients were to be included provided that 4 of 13 patients had achieved pCR in the first stage of the study.

Results: In stage I of the study 13 women were enrolled, median age 43 years, tumor size 2-5 cm in 9/13 (69%), positive nodal status in 8/13 (61%). Main grade 3 adverse event was neutropenia (related to AT and E in 4 and 2 cases, respectively). AT followed by E induced clinical complete + partial responses in 11/13 patients (85%), pCR in 3/13 (23%). Median measurements of maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) resulted 13, 3, and 1.9 at baseline, after AT and E, respectively. Complete metabolic response (CMR) occurred after AT and after E in 2 and 3 cases, respectively. Notably, 2 of the 5 (40%) patients with CMR achieved pCR at surgery. Immunostaining of paired pre-/post-treatment tumor specimens showed a reduction of β-catenin, CyclinD1, Zeb-1, and c-myc expression, in the absence of N-cadherin modulation. The study was interrupted at stage I due to the lack of the required patients with pCR.

Conclusions: Despite the early study closure, preoperative E following AT showed clinical and biological activity in triple negative breast cancer patients. Furthermore, the modulation of β-catenin pathway core proteins, supposedly outside the domain of epithelial-mesenchymal transition, claims for further investigation.

Trial Registration: EU Clinical Trial Register, EudraCT number 2012-004956-12.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220644PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6685628PMC
March 2020

Phenethyl isothiocyanate hampers growth and progression of HER2-positive breast and ovarian carcinoma by targeting their stem cell compartment.

Cell Oncol (Dordr) 2019 Dec 2;42(6):815-828. Epub 2019 Aug 2.

Molecular Targeting Unit, Department of Research, AmadeoLab, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

Purpose: Isothiocyanates elicit anticancer effects by targeting cancer stem cells (CSCs). Here, we tested the antitumor activity of phenethyl-isothiocyanate (PEITC), either alone or in combination with trastuzumab, in HER2-positive tumor models.

Methods: We assessed the in vitro anticancer activity of PEITC, alone or combined with trastuzumab, in HER2-positive BT474, SKBR3, HCC1954 and SKOV3 cancer cells by measuring their sphere forming efficiency (SFE). The expression of the human/rodent CSC biomarkers aldehyde-dehydrogenase (ALDH) and CD29/CD24/Sca1 was evaluated by cytofluorimetric analysis. The expression of wild type HER2 (WTHER2), its splice variant d16HER2 and NOTCH was analysed by quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting. The in vivo activity of PEITC and trastuzumab was evaluated in mice orthotopically implanted with MI6 tumor cells transgenic for the human d16HER2 splice isoform. Magnetic resonance imaging/spectroscopy and immunohistochemistry were used to assess morpho-functional and metabolic profiles of treated versus untreated mice.

Results: We found that PEITC significantly impaired the SFE of HER2-positive human cancer cells by decreasing their ALDH-positive compartments. The anti-CSC activity of PEITC was demonstrated by a reduced expression/activation of established cancer-stemness biomarkers. Similar results were obtained with MI6 cells, where PEITC, alone or in combination with trastuzumab, significantly inhibited their SFE. We also found that PEITC hampered the in vivo growth of MI6 nodules by inducing hemorrhagic and necrotic intra-tumor areas and, in combination with trastuzumab, by significantly reducing spontaneous tumor development in d16HER2 transgenic mice.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that PEITC targets HER2-positive CSCs and that its combination with trastuzumab may pave the way for a novel therapeutic strategy for HER2-positive tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13402-019-00464-wDOI Listing
December 2019

SPARC Is a New Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cell Marker Licensing Suppressive Activities.

Front Immunol 2019 20;10:1369. Epub 2019 Jun 20.

Molecular Immunology Unit, Department of Research, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are well-known key negative regulators of the immune response during tumor growth, however scattered is the knowledge of their capacity to influence and adapt to the different tumor microenvironments and of the markers that identify those capacities. Here we show that the secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) identifies in both human and mouse MDSC with immune suppressive capacity and pro-tumoral activities including the induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and angiogenesis. In mice the genetic deletion of SPARC reduced MDSC immune suppression and reverted EMT. c MDSC were less suppressive overall and the granulocytic fraction was more prone to extrude neutrophil extracellular traps (NET). Surprisingly, arginase-I and NOS2, whose expression can be controlled by STAT3, were not down-regulated in c MDSC, although less suppressive than wild type (WT) counterpart. Flow cytometry analysis showed equal phosphorylation of STAT3 but reduced ROS production that was associated with reduced nuclear translocation of the NF-kB p50 subunit in c than WT MDSC. The limited p50 in nuclei reduce the formation of the immunosuppressive p50:p50 homodimers in favor of the p65:p50 inflammatory heterodimers. Supporting this hypothesis, the production of TNF by c MDSC was significantly higher than by WT MDSC. Although associated with tumor-induced chronic inflammation, TNF, if produced at high doses, becomes a key factor in mediating tumor rejection. Therefore, it is foreseeable that an unbalance in TNF production could skew MDSC toward an inflammatory, anti-tumor phenotype. Notably, TNF is also required for inflammation-driven NETosis. The high level of TNF in c MDSC might explain their increased spontaneous NET formation as that we detected both and , in association with signs of endothelial damage. We propose SPARC as a new potential marker of MDSC, in both human and mouse, with the additional feature of controlling MDSC suppressive activity while preventing an excessive inflammatory state through the control of NF-kB signaling pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01369DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6596449PMC
October 2020

The landscape of d16HER2 splice variant expression across HER2-positive cancers.

Sci Rep 2019 03 5;9(1):3545. Epub 2019 Mar 5.

Molecular Targeting Unit, Department of Research, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

The HER2 splice variant characterized by the deletion of exon 16 and denominated as d16HER2, is associated with HER2-positive breast cancer (BC) aggressiveness, stemness, and trastuzumab susceptibility and is considered to be a "flag" of HER2 dependence. However, with the exception of quantitative real-time PCR analysis, easily reproducible assays are still lacking to clinically detect and quantify the d16HER2 expression. Further, no data on d16HER2 expression and its potential role are available in HER2-positive gastrointestinal malignancies. Here, we used a novel RNA in situ hybridization technique (BaseScope) to discriminate d16HER2 variant expression from the wild type isoform (WTHER2) and to assess their levels across different HER2-positive histological samples. Our results demonstrate the existence of outliers, with d16HER2 mRNA high scores restricted to HER2-positive gastric cancer (GC) and colorectal cancer (CRC) coupled with increased d16HER2 expression compared with BC. Consistent with previously reported data on BC, experiments performed in HER2-positive GC patient-derived xenografts suggest that increased d16HER2 expression is associated with a clinical benefit/response to single-agent trastuzumab. Therefore, d16HER2 may be considered as a "flag" of HER2 dependence in GC and can be clinically investigated as a marker of trastuzumab susceptibility in several other HER2-driven cancers, including CRC. As a clinical proof-of-concept, we indicate that high d16HER2 mRNA scores are exclusively found in patients with a long-term benefit from trastuzumab exceeding 12 months (clinical "outliers"), and that d16HER2 expression is also increased in circulating tumor-released exosomes obtained from baseline plasma samples of long-term responders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-40310-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6401102PMC
March 2019

Combination of Baseline LDH, Performance Status and Age as Integrated Algorithm to Identify Solid Tumor Patients with Higher Probability of Response to Anti PD-1 and PD-L1 Monoclonal Antibodies.

Cancers (Basel) 2019 Feb 14;11(2). Epub 2019 Feb 14.

Medical Oncology Unit, Fondazione IRCCS, Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano, Via Giacomo Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Predictive biomarkers of response to immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are an urgent clinical need. The aim of this study is to identify manageable parameters to use in clinical practice to select patients with higher probability of response to ICIs. Two-hundred-and-seventy-one consecutive metastatic solid tumor patients, treated from 2013 until 2017 with anti- Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1)/programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) ICIs, were evaluated for baseline lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) serum level, performance status (PS), age, neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio, type of immunotherapy, number of metastatic sites, histology, and sex. A training and validation set were used to build and test models, respectively. The variables' effects were assessed through odds ratio estimates (OR) and area under the receive operating characteristic curves (AUC), from univariate and multivariate logistic regression models. A final multivariate model with LDH, age and PS showed significant ORs and an AUC of 0.771. Results were statistically validated and used to devise an Excel algorithm to calculate the patient's response probabilities. We implemented an interactive Excel algorithm based on three variables (baseline LDH serum level, age and PS) which is able to provide a higher performance in response prediction to ICIs compared with LDH alone. This tool could be used in a real-life setting to identify ICIs in responding patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers11020223DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6406250PMC
February 2019

WNT signaling modulates PD-L1 expression in the stem cell compartment of triple-negative breast cancer.

Oncogene 2019 05 31;38(21):4047-4060. Epub 2019 Jan 31.

Molecular Targeting Unit, Department of Research, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are characterized by a poor prognosis and lack of targeted treatments, and thus, new therapeutic strategies are urgently needed. Inhibitors against programmed death-1 (PD-1)/PD-1 ligand (PD-L1) have shown significant efficacy in various solid cancers, but their activity against TNBCs remains limited. Here, we report that human TNBCs molecularly stratified for high levels of PD-L1 (PD-L1) showed significantly enriched expression of immune and cancer stemness pathways compared with those with low PD-L1 expression (PD-L1). In addition, the PD-L1 cases were significantly associated with a high stemness score (SS) signature. TNBC cell lines gated for aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) and CD44 stemness markers exhibited increased levels of PD-L1 versus their ALDH-negative and CD44 counterparts, and PD-L1 cells generated significantly more mammospheres than PD-L1 cells. Murine mammary SCA-1-positive tumor cells with PD-L1 expression generated tumors in vivo with higher efficacy than PD-L1 cells. Furthermore, treatment of TNBC cells with selective WNT inhibitors or activators downregulated or upregulated PD-L1 expression, respectively, implying a functional cross-talk between WNT activity and PD-L1 expression. Remarkably, human TNBC samples contained tumor elements co-expressing PD-L1 with ALDH1A1 and/or CD44v6. Additionally, both PD-L1-/SCA1-positive and ALDH1A1-positive tumor elements were found in close contact with CD3-, and PD-1-positive T cells in murine and human tumor samples. Overall, our study suggests that PD-L1-positive tumor elements with a stemness phenotype may participate in the complex dynamics of TNBC-related immune evasion, which might be targeted through WNT signaling inhibition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41388-019-0700-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6755989PMC
May 2019

Intratumor lactate levels reflect HER2 addiction status in HER2-positive breast cancer.

J Cell Physiol 2019 02 21;234(2):1768-1779. Epub 2018 Aug 21.

Molecular Targeting Unit, Department of Research, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

Despite different molecular tumor profiles indicate that human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) messenger RNA (mRNA) levels mirror HER2 addiction and trastuzumab benefit in HER2-positive breast cancer (BC), the identification of noninvasive clinical predictors of trastuzumab sensitivity remains an unmet clinical need. In the current study, we investigated whether intratumor lactate levels reflect HER2 addiction and, in turn, trastuzumab susceptibility. Accordingly, the gene expression profiles of transgenic murine BC cell lines expressing the human d16HER2 variant (HER2-addicted) or human full-length HER2 (WTHER2; HER2-nonaddicted) revealed a significant enrichment of glycolysis-related gene pathways in HER2-addicted cells. We studied the metabolic content of 22 human HER2-positive BC by quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and found that those cases with higher lactate levels were characterized by higher HER2 transcript levels. Moreover, gene expression analyses of HER2-positive BC samples from a TCGA data set revealed a significant enrichment in glycolysis-related pathways in high/HER2-addicted tumors. These data were confirmed by metabolic analyses of human HER2-positive BC cell lines with high or low HER2 transcript levels, which revealed significantly more active glycolytic metabolism in high HER2 transcript than in low HER2 transcript cells. Overall, our results provide evidence for noninvasive intratumor lactate detection as a potential metabolic biomarker of HER2 addiction and trastuzumab response suggesting the possibility to use in vivo imaging to assess lactate levels and, in turn, select HER2-positive BC patients who are more likely to benefit from anti-HER2 treatments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcp.27049DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6282573PMC
February 2019

Immunotherapy-based combinations: an update.

Curr Opin Oncol 2018 09;30(5):345-351

Medical Oncology Department, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori.

Purpose Of Review: The advent of immunotherapy significantly improved clinical outcomes in cancer patients, although immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) still lack of efficacy in a consistent proportion of treated patients. The purpose of this article is to review the most innovative and clinically promising ICB-based combinations designed to improve the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.

Recent Findings: First-line combinatorial treatment with ipilimumab and nivolumab has recently shown to be superior to the standard of care in a subset of metastatic nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The combination of programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1)/PD-L1 blockade with antiangiogenics has demonstrated a consistent clinical efficacy, especially for the combination of bevacizumab and atezolizumab as first-line therapy in metastatic RCC. The sequential combination of definitive chemoradiotherapy followed by durvalumab maintenance in advanced, unresectable NSCLC became the new standard of care, while the addition of pembrolizumab to first-line chemotherapy in metastatic NSCLC significantly improves overall survival. Despite promising results for the combination of ICBs with v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B/MAPK/ERK kinase inhibitors or epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors, especially in melanoma and NSCLC, safety concerns slowed down the development of such strategies.

Summary: Immunotherapy-based combinations are becoming the standard of care for cancer treatment, in particularly for advanced melanoma, NSCLC and RCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/CCO.0000000000000466DOI Listing
September 2018

Design, selection and optimization of an anti-TRAIL-R2/anti-CD3 bispecific antibody able to educate T cells to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

MAbs 2018 10 6;10(7):1084-1097. Epub 2018 Aug 6.

a Molecular Therapies Unit, Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine , Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori , Milan , Italy.

Recombinant human tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) or TRAIL-receptor agonistic monoclonal antibodies promote apoptosis in most cancer cells, and the differential expression of TRAIL-R2 between tumor and normal tissues allows its exploitation as a tumor-associated antigen. The use of these antibodies as anticancer agents has been extensively studied, but the results of clinical trials were disappointing. The observed lack of anticancer activity could be attributed to intrinsic or acquired resistance of tumor cells to this type of treatment. A possible strategy to circumvent drug resistance would be to strike tumor cells with a second modality based on a different mechanism of action. We therefore set out to generate and optimize a bispecific antibody targeting TRAIL-R2 and CD3. After the construction of different bispecific antibodies in tandem-scFv or single-chain diabody formats to reduce possible immunogenicity, we selected a humanized bispecific antibody with very low aggregates and long-term high stability and functionality. This antibody triggered TRAIL-R2 in an agonistic manner and its anticancer activity proved dramatically potentiated by the redirection of cytotoxic T cells against both sensitive and resistant melanoma cells. The results of our study show that combining the TRAIL-based antitumor strategy with an immunotherapeutic approach in a single molecule could be an effective addition to the anticancer armamentarium.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19420862.2018.1494105DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6204841PMC
October 2018

A phase II multicenter study of the anti-CD19 antibody drug conjugate coltuximab ravtansine (SAR3419) in patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma previously treated with rituximab-based immunotherapy.

Haematologica 2018 08 10;103(8):1351-1358. Epub 2018 May 10.

Fondazione Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy.

This phase II, single-arm, multicenter study examined the efficacy and safety of coltuximab ravtansine (an anti-CD19 antibody drug conjugate) in 61 patients with histologically documented ( or transformed) relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma who had previously received rituximab-containing immuno-chemotherapy. Patients had received a median of 2.0 (range 0-9) prior treatment regimens for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and almost half (45.9%) had bulky disease (≥1 lesion >5 cm) at trial entry. Patients received coltuximab ravtansine (55 mg/m) in 4 weekly and 4 biweekly administrations until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Forty-one patients were eligible for inclusion in the per protocol population. Overall response rate (International Working Group criteria) in the per protocol population, the primary end point, was 18/41 [43.9%; 90% confidence interval (CI:) 30.6-57.9%]. Median duration of response, progression-free survival, and overall survival (all treated patients) were 4.7 (range 0.0-8.8) months, 4.4 (90%CI: 3.02-5.78) months, and 9.2 (90%CI: 6.57-12.09) months, respectively. Common non-hematologic adverse events included asthenia/fatigue (30%), nausea (23%), and diarrhea (20%). Grade 3-4 adverse events were reported in 23 patients (38%), the most frequent being hepatotoxicity (3%) and abdominal pain (3%). Eye disorders occurred in 15 patients (25%); all were grade 1-2 and none required a dose modification. Coltuximab ravtansine monotherapy was well tolerated and resulted in moderate clinical responses in pre-treated patients with relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. (Registered at: .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3324/haematol.2017.168401DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6068033PMC
August 2018

c-MYC G-quadruplex binding by the RNA polymerase I inhibitor BMH-21 and analogues revealed by a combined NMR and biochemical Approach.

Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj 2018 Mar 8;1862(3):615-629. Epub 2017 Dec 8.

Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences, Division of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 2, I-20133 Milano, Italy.

Background: Pyridoquinazolinecarboxamides have been reported as RNA polymerase I inhibitors and represent a novel class of potential antitumor agents. BMH-21, was reported to intercalate with GC-rich rDNA, resulting in nucleolar stress as a primary mechanism of cytotoxicity.

Methods: The interaction of BMH-21 and analogues with DNA G-quadruplex structures was studied by NMR and molecular modelling. The cellular response was investigated in a panel of human tumor cell lines and protein expression was examined by Western Blot analysis.

Results And Conclusions: We explored the ability of BMH-21 and its analogue 2 to bind to G-quadruplex present in the c-MYC promoter, by NMR and molecular modelling studies. We provide evidence that both compounds are not typical DNA intercalators but are effective binders of the tested G-quadruplex. The interaction with c-MYC G-quadruplex was reflected in down-regulation of c-Myc expression in human tumor cells. The inhibitory effect was almost complete in lymphoma cells SUDHL4 characterized by overexpression of c-Myc protein. This downregulation reflected an early and persistent modulation of cMyc mRNA. Given the relevance of c-MYC in regulation of ribosome biogenesis, it is conceivable that the inhibition of c-MYC contributes to the perturbation of nuclear functions and RNA polymerase I activity. Similar experiments with CX-5461, another RNA polymerase I transcription inhibitor, indicate the same behaviour in G-quadruplex stabilization.

General Significance: Our results support the hypothesis that BMH-21 and analogue compounds share the same mechanism, i.e. G-quadruplex binding as a primary event of a cascade leading to inhibition of RNA polymerase I and apoptosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbagen.2017.12.002DOI Listing
March 2018

Microenvironment modulation and enhancement of antilymphoma therapy by the heparanase inhibitor roneparstat.

Hematol Oncol 2018 Feb 21;36(1):360-362. Epub 2017 Jul 21.

Unit of Immunotherapy and Anticancer Innovative Therapeutics, Department of Medical Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hon.2466DOI Listing
February 2018

Goals and objectives of the Italian Network for Tumor Biotherapy (NIBIT).

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev 2017 08 16;36:1-3. Epub 2017 Jun 16.

Cellular Immunology Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, IRCSS San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

The explosion in the immuno-oncology field, exemplified by the clinical implementation of immune checkpoint inhibitor blockade and other immunotherapeutic strategies was quickly recognized by the Italian biomedical community, thanks to the networking activities of the Italian Network for Tumor Biotherapy (NIBIT), which has been active since 2004 in the diffusion of new scientific and clinical findings in the fields of tumor immunology and immunotherapy. Numerous activities of NIBIT have also helped to overcome the hurdles associated with the clinical implementation of cancer immune-biotherapeutic strategies at the national and international levels. Looking forward, a concerted interaction of NIBIT with existing European networks focused on cancer bio-immunotherapy will further contribute to the development of improved therapies in the immuno-oncology field. This Introduction briefly summarizes the history and objectives of NIBIT, as well as the current activities of the Network.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2017.06.004DOI Listing
August 2017

Randomized Trial Comparing R-CHOP Versus High-Dose Sequential Chemotherapy in High-Risk Patients With Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphomas.

J Clin Oncol 2016 11 31;34(33):4015-4022. Epub 2016 Oct 31.

Sergio Cortelazzo, Atto Billio, Andrea Piccin, and Giovanni Negri, Ospedale Centrale di Bolzano, Bolzano; Corrado Tarella and Riccardo Bruna, Azienda Ospedaliera Ordine Mauriziano and University of Turin; Marco Ladetto and Manuela Zanni, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria (AOU) Città della Salute e della Scienza, Turin; Alessandro Massimo Gianni, Paolo Corradini, and Massimo Di Nicola, Fondazione Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, University of Milano; Andrés J.M. Ferreri, IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute; Valentina Tabanelli and Stefano Pileri, Istituto Europeo di Oncologia; Alessandro Rambaldi, University of Milano, Milan; Anna Maria Barbui, Andrea Rossi, Giuseppe Gritti, Arianna Masciulli, Federica Delaini, Cristina Boschini, and Alessandro Rambaldi, Azienda Socio Sanitaria Territoriale Papa Giovanni XXIII, Bergamo; Caterina Patti and Antonino Mulé, Azienda Ospedali Riuniti Villa Sofia-Cervello, Palermo; Valerio Zoli, Ospedale San Camillo Forlanini, Rome; Claudia Castellino, Ospedale S. Croce e Carle, Cuneo; Francesco Di Raimondo, AOU Policlinico Vittorio Emanuele University of Catania, Catania; Fabio Benedetti, University of Verona; Marco Chilosi, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata Verona, Verona; Giorgio La Nasa, Ospedale Binaghi, Cagliari; Guido Gini, Ospedali Riuniti, Ancona; Livio Trentin, Azienda Ospedaliera-Università di Padova, Padua; Maurizio Frezzato, Ospedale San Bortolo, Vicenza; Leonardo Flenghi, Azienda Ospedaliera di Perugia, Perugia; and Simona Falorio, Ospedale Civile Spirito Santo, Pescara, Italy.

Purpose The benefit of high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem-cell transplantation (ASCT) as first-line treatment in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphomas is still a matter of debate. To address this point, we designed a randomized phase III trial to compare rituximab plus cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (R-CHOP)-14 (eight cycles) with rituximab plus high-dose sequential chemotherapy (R-HDS) with ASCT. Patients and Methods From June 2005 to June 2011, 246 high-risk patients with a high-intermediate (56%) or high (44%) International Prognostic Index score were randomly assigned to the R-CHOP or R-HDS arm, and 235 were analyzed by intent to treat. The primary efficacy end point of the study was 3-year event-free survival, and results were analyzed on an intent-to-treat basis. Results Clinical response (complete response, 78% v 76%; partial response, 5% v 9%) and failures (no response, 15% v 11%; and early treatment-related mortality, 2% v 3%) were similar after R-CHOP versus R-HDS, respectively. After a median follow-up of 5 years, the 3-year event-free survival was 62% versus 65% ( P = .83). At 3 years, compared with the R-CHOP arm, the R-HDS arm had better disease-free survival (79% v 91%, respectively; P = .034), but this subsequently vanished because of late-occurring treatment-related deaths. No difference was detected in terms of progression-free survival (65% v 75%, respectively; P = .12), or overall survival (74% v 77%, respectively; P = .64). Significantly higher hematologic toxicity ( P < .001) and more infectious complications ( P < .001) were observed in the R-HDS arm. Conclusion In this study, front-line intensive R-HDS chemotherapy with ASCT did not improve the outcome of high-risk patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphomas.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2016.67.2980DOI Listing
November 2016

Immunotherapy advances in uro-genital malignancies.

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol 2016 Sep 17;105:52-64. Epub 2016 Jun 17.

Department of Medical Oncology, Fondazione IRCSS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer has made significant progresses over the last 20 years. Multiple efforts have been attempted to restore immune-mediated tumor elimination, leading to the development of several targeted immunotherapies. Data from recent clinical trials suggest that these agents might improve the prognosis of patients with advanced genito-urinary (GU) malignancies. Nivolumab has been the first immune checkpoint-inhibitor approved for pre-treated patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Pembrolizumab and atezolizumab have shown promising results in both phase I and II trials in urothelial carcinoma. Brentuximab vedotin has demonstrated early signals of clinical activity and immunomodulatory effects in highly pre-treated patients with testicular germ cell tumors. In this review, we have summarized the major clinical achievements of immunotherapy in GU cancers, focusing on immune checkpoint blockade as well as the new immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) under clinical evaluation for these malignancies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.critrevonc.2016.06.012DOI Listing
September 2016

Addition of Rituximab to Involved-Field Radiation Therapy Prolongs Progression-free Survival in Stage I-II Follicular Lymphoma: Results of a Multicenter Study.

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2016 Mar 17;94(4):783-91. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

Division of Medical Oncology, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, and University of Milano, Milano, Italy.

Purpose: Rituximab (Rit) therapy added to involved-field radiation therapy (RT) has been proposed as an effective treatment for stage I-II follicular lymphoma (FL). The results of an observational multicenter study on the Rit-RT combination in limited-stage FL are here reported.

Methods And Materials: Data have been collected from 2 consecutive cohorts of 94 patients with stage I-II FL treated between 1985 and 2011 at 5 Italian institutions. All patients had grade 1-3a FL, a median age of 54 years (range: 25-82). The first 51 patients received RT alone (control group), while the subsequent series of 43 patients received 4 rituximab courses (375 mg/m(2), days 1, 8, 15, 22) before RT (Rit-RT). Molecular disease was evaluated by nested bcl-2/IgH PCR or clonal IgH rearrangement was available in 33 Rit-RT patients.

Results: At a median follow-up of 10.9 years (range: 1.8-22.9), the 10-year progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) projections for the whole cohort were 57% and 87.5%, respectively. The 10-year PFS was significantly longer (P<.05) in the Rit-RT group (64.6%) compared to RT alone (50.7%), whereas the 10-year OS projections were not significantly different. On bivariate analysis controlling for stage, there was only a trend toward improved PFS for Rit-RT (HR, 0.55; P=.081). Follicular lymphoma international prognostic index and age were associated with OS but not with PFS on Cox regression analysis. Bone marrow molecular analysis showing PCR positivity at diagnosis was strongly associated with relapse risk upon univariate and multivariate analysis.

Conclusions: This multicenter observational study suggests a potential benefit of adding rituximab to radiation therapy for stage I-II FL. The results of the currently ongoing randomized studies are required to confirm these results. The study underlines the importance of molecular disease monitoring also for patient with limited-stage disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijrobp.2015.12.019DOI Listing
March 2016